By Poly Pantelides
THE labour minister yesterday called private sector employers to pay their staff’s Christmas bonus, a long-standing practice that has been losing favour in the private sector as employers have been cutting down wages to reduce their costs.
Known as the 13th salary because it matches an employee’s normal monthly wage, the Christmas bonus is – in theory – a right protected by law. Labour minister Zeta Emilianidou has previously warned employers that not paying the 13th salary was a criminal offence. Yesterday, she appealed to employers’ humanity.
“No employee should be left unpaid. We must all respect human rights,” she said after a meeting with unions and employers. But employers are not breaking the law if they get there is a contract or agreement with their employees not to pay a 13th salary.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a circular to its members telling them they may agree to pay the 13th salary in part or none at all if they reach an agreement with their staff because of the debt crisis.
Employers are still meant to pay the bonus if it has been business practice or contractually promised, and unless otherwise specified, the 13th salary continues being an employers’ obligation, KEVE said. It called employers to ensure their staff agreed to give up the 13th salary so that businesses keep on the right side of the law.
Regardless of the law, in practice many employees in the private sector have not had their 13th salary in the last few years. It is an employers’ market with an ever growing, highly educated workforce who are now unemployed. People are holding on to their jobs, 13th salary or not.
Socialist party EDEK plans to put to the plenum on Thursday a proposal to withhold a percentage of the 13th salary of all workers in the public and private sector, contributing the sum to support vulnerable groups. The other parties are not keen. Deputies continue to get their 13th salary but were yesterday discussing other means of supporting the vulnerable that kept part, or the entirety, of the MPs 13th salary intact.
Ruling party DISY suggested putting together a special solidarity fund for social cohesion and employment. The House Finance Committee deputy head, Angelos Votsis said the proposal needed more work from legal services. But he said all parties were possibly in favour of setting up a fund to help the vulnerable. He said the money could come from people with a higher income, though he did not specify the threshold and whether he thought people should volunteer or be made to contribute. Votsis said rather than rushing to vote EDEK’s proposal through, the parties should work hard come next year to “do something more substantial but in the same spirit.”
The Greens’ Giorgos Perdikis said the solidarity fund was an old story and a law was voted earlier this year. “We’re chockfull of these funds, where’s the solidarity?” Perdikis said.